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AL West: A's can RIP
Let's take a trip back to last millennium -- 1998 to be exact. Back to a time when our Commander in Chief "did not have sexual relations with that woman," Dawson's Creek capitalized on teacher-student sexy time, astronomical disaster flicks ruled the box office (see: Armageddon and Deep Impact) and the A's were the worst team in the AL West.
Oakland finished 1998 -- Billy Beane's first season as general manager -- in the cellar at 74-88. The definitive stretch of that season came in late July when Oakland lost nine in a row -- something the franchise hadn't repeated since ... until Tuesday. Texas' 11-4 shellacking gave Oakland its ninth straight defeat. During futile spell, the A's also set a team record by scoring three runs or fewer in 11 consecutive games.
Granted, the A's ended the nine-game skid with a 6-0 win over the Rangers yesterday, but the win still left them five games below .500 at 45-50. With 67 games left, Oakland sits 11 games behind the division-leading Angels and 10 1/2 games back in the Wild Card. The recent ineptitude has caused me to officially do something I promised I would never do: give up on Beane's A's in July. I know, I know -- considering the A's second-half brilliance in recent years, this seems highly premature. But I've watched enough of this year's Athletics to know they'll be busy on the links -- not the diamond -- come October. The '07 installment is just too flawed (and delicate).
First and foremost, Oakland's offense is nothing short of horrendous. The A's have scored the second-lowest amount of runs in the American League (ahead of only Chicago), thanks in large part to their major-league worst .234 average with runners in scoring position. Though Mike Piazza is on the verge of returning to the lineup, he's no longer a game-changing threat. Piazza hasn't been a steady run producer 2002, so don't expect the designated hitter to carry Oakland's offense down the stretch like Frank Thomas did last season.
This offensive ineptness leaves absolutely no margin for error in the pitching department. Oakland's pitching as a whole has been rock solid -- ranking second in team ERA (3.74) -- but it isn't without flaw. Oakland's top three starters (Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, and Chad Gaudin) are fabulous, but the back end of the rotation (Joe Kennedy and Lenny DiNardo) leaves something to be desired. And Rich Harden's second trip to the DL for a strained right shoulder could mean the A's will be without their flame-throwing right-hander for the rest of 2007.
The rotation is far less of a concern than the bullpen. Without closer Huston Street (on the DL since May 15 with elbow problems) and setup man Justin Duchscherer (out for the season after hip surgery), Oakland's 'pen has dropped off significantly since last year, ranking just 21st in baseball with an 4.34 ERA.
On top of all this, on Monday the A's traded veteran presence Jason Kendall to the Cubs, opting to start 23.-year-old backstop Kurt Suzuki full time. Though Kendall was hitting .226 at the time of the trade, his guidance of the young staff was invaluable. As Huston Street told the San Francisco Chronicle, "For a lot of us who trusted [Kendall], it's going to be a difficult transition." Also, Beane admits that this trade at least partially indicates the team is focusing on the future (past this season).
"I think certainly, with the injuries we've had, this isn't the place we'd like to be sitting right now," Beane told the Chronicle. "We've got an uphill battle to get back into this, given the way the Angels and Mariners have been playing and the fact that we still have some critical members of the team who won't be ready for awhile.
"At [catcher], there's no question that we're looking toward next year, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything beyond that or from the whole team's standpoint."
Labels: AL West
posted by SI.com | View comments |
Hargrove left..Ichiro re-ups ! yeah, no coincidence at all, Seattle...
It really is hard to say, but my A's really don't have a chance to even make a run for the Wild Card this year. To be where they are despite their decimating injuries all year long, though, is amazing. There are few other teams that could have held up as well as they did for so long.
One thing, though: please please please get rid of Bobby Crosby!
Agreed with the above poster. Bobby Crosby will never return to the form which won him rookie of the year. I'm sick and tired of hearing season after season what a difference Bobby will make to this lineup. He's gone the way of Kerry Wood.
As for a latel season comeback, bear in mind what began on August 13th, 2002.
I hate to say this, but Billy Beane might have stayed too long with this team...
When you get a GM with a reputation for making something out of nothing and making gold out of straw it's going to reach a point where only the insane will trade with him. If Billy calls and inquires about some AA scrub you have are you really going to just let this guy go? Even with a strong re-evaluation of him will you ever feel OK sending him to Billy?
It's time Billy worked for a big market team with a real payroll and sort of change out how he is viewed in baseball. That Red Sox offer may well have been the one Billy should have said yes to.....
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